Good morning, Quartz readers!
The past three weeks of Nigeria’s EndSARS protests have me listening again to late Nigerian Afrobeat star and political activist Fela Kuti’s “Sorrow Tears & Blood.” The song, released 42 years ago, is about the violence and psychological terror inflicted by Nigeria’s uniformed officials, in particular the police and army. Fela bemoans Nigerians’ reluctance to rise up, singing in pidgin English: “My people sef dey fear too much!“
Well, this year young Nigerians have had enough. And unlike their parents, they are no longer afraid.
Nigeria has been a proudly democratic country for 21 years, but its law enforcement and military retain many of the worst habits of a previous era. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is an elite, corrupt force involved in everything from citizen harassment and unlawful arrests to kidnappings and extra-judicial killings. Young Nigerians, particularly anyone with signs of wealth but no obvious links to power, are regularly targeted and “arrested,” and their only hope of release is paying an extortionate amount of cash.
Young Nigerians are now pushing back with a focus and determination that has flummoxed the often complacent government of president Muhammadu Buhari. EndSARS is the biggest and longest-running series of national protests in a generation. Organizers take advantage of the internet to raise awareness, counter misleading government messaging, and distribute food, drinks, and even umbrellas to protestors. Celebrities like Rihanna are bringing global attention. When the Nigerian government stymied the movement’s digital fundraising, organizers simply switched to bitcoin and raised even more.
As with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, for these young Nigerians the protests have become about more than police brutality. They are about fixing a country’s weak governance and lack of accountability. They are about restoring hope.
The Oct. 20 shooting of unarmed, peaceful protestors in Lagos was a turning point, and a lot rests on where things go from here. By 2050 Nigeria will be the world’s third largest country by population after India and China. Hundreds of millions of young people with little hope for the future is a dangerous prospect for Nigeria, but also dangerous for the world. —Yinka Adegoke
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
On Nov. 3, China wins. Mary Hui and Jane Li explain why Beijing is in an “enviable position” going into this US presidential election. A Joe Biden administration would likely bring some cooperation and less confrontation while a Donald Trump win might mean more short-term pain, but would also reduce America’s ability to overcome internal divisions and forge a global strategy to counter China. —Tripti Lahiri, Asia editor
Shallower pools, emptier pockets. Back in June, Donald Trump temporarily halted the H-1B visa program, which companies use to recruit highly skilled foreign workers, especially in computer science. Ananya Bhattacharya lays out how shutting 200,000 top employees out of the country shaved $100 billion off of Fortune 500 companies’ returns. —Nicolás Rivero, tech reporter
Seeking digital counterfeiters. In one of the world’s most cashless societies, Chinese officials are testing out a virtual yuan, backed by the central bank, as paper money goes out of style. But as Jane Li reports, counterfeit digital yuan wallets have already sprung up to exploit the innovation. It’s one more example of how old, off-line problems have a way of resurfacing in the online world. —John Detrixhe, finance reporter
For the truth, look to the poop. Hundreds of US cities are examining the contents of their sewers to get a read on Covid-19 infection rates in their communities well before patients show up to hospitals. But so far the testing programs—and the devices that suck, snake, and slurp fecal matter—are localized and ad hoc. Katherine Foley masterfully breaks down how these programs could prevent future outbreaks. —Alex Ossola, special projects editor
Zooming out. French magician Rémi Larousse says the face is not enough. Video calls would be less draining, he argues, if we all showed our upper bodies, and could read each other’s body language. This is just one of the lessons in remote communication we can learn from magicians, explains Anne Quito. —Dan Kopf, data editor
Two fun facts
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🛰 GPS: GPS satellites have atomic clocks that can determine time in 100 billionths of a second and are used to synchronize cell phone networks. Read more about how we get around using guidance from above.
🦑 H.P. Lovecraft: The pioneering horror author once ghostwrote a story for Harry Houdini called “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs,” a fictionalized account of the time Houdini claimed to have been kidnapped by a tour guide in Egypt. Houdini loved the story so much he wanted to collaborate with Lovecraft several more times. Lovecraft thought the story was dumb, and said he only did it for the money. Discover the terror that comes from learning just what made the iconic writer tick.
One membership thing that made us think
A less global internet. When most people think of the “splinternet,” they think of China’s Great Firewall: a central authority blocking citizens from easy access to information. But in this week’s field guide, Quartz reporters from five different countries show how the experience of being online is diverging in more ways than one. We’re a long way from the early ambition and optimism of a truly open internet, but don’t lose hope: The future is still in our hands. —Kira Bindrim, executive editor
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Five things from elsewhere that made us smarter
Do you see dead people? Believing you’ve seen or felt the presence of a dead loved one may not be fashionable these days, but for eons, people have been swearing that they’ve had the experience. More than 100 years ago, a multination Census of Hallucinations found that up to 19% of the living said they’ve encountered the dead, Patricia Pearson reports for The Walrus. In time for Halloween, she explores what’s behind the visions we dismiss as symptoms of grief, with the perfect balance of science, openness, and empathy. —Lila MacLellan, senior reporter
Caste is everywhere. Indians from lower castes can’t escape prejudice even when they emigrate to the US. It’s rampant in Silicon Valley, and Dalits in particular face insidious discrimination from their upper-caste Indian colleagues. This gut-punching piece by Nitasha Tiku for The Washington Post shines light on the lives of Dalits in the US, who may experience economic prosperity but their social standing is chained to centuries-old slurs and biases. —Manavi Kapur, Quartz India reporter
Modest roots behind the scenes. South Koreans are dominating the massive esports scene, but the reasons are humble ones. Writing for Wired, Jonathan Lee thoughtfully explains the culture, economics, and infrastructure behind so many notable names, including their parents’ working-class origins, gaming café economics, and the impact of the country’s college entrance exam. An entertaining, myth-busting feature. —Karen K. Ho, global finance and economics reporter
Thailand’s leaderless and pronoun-less protest movement. Mass protests are expressions of popular will, but they’re also complex sociological phenomenons. Having reported on the structural resilience and linguistic creativity of the Hong Kong protests, I was delighted to read this piece by Sunisa Manning in the Thai Enquirer on how young Thai protesters are abandoning the hierarchical structures of the Thai language and embracing a form of protest where no one and everyone is a leader. —Mary Hui, Asia reporter
Dance yourself clean. When very little makes sense, you just gotta dance. This groovy gift from the New Yorker’s Matthew Osubor arrived at a perfect moment, during a week when we were weathering the storm of pandemic news, political tension, and an actual violent storm whipping the Gulf Coast. “No One Really Knows When This Will End”—a jig performed with upturned palms and moving your body like a worm on fire—is the Cat Daddy of 2020. —Anne Quito, design reporter
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, nameless blasphemies, and loathsome phantasms to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Yinka Adegoke and Susan Howson.